Michigan Democrats, Michigan Republicans, Rick Snyder — November 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

Michigan Democratic leaders urge Gov. Rick Snyder to veto the court-rigging SB 652


They know what democracy looks like. If Gov. Snyder signs this bill into law, it will prove once again that he doesn’t.

[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]

The speed at which Republicans rammed through Senate Bill 652 is enough to give anyone legislative whiplash. And when bills are rushed through that quickly for no good reason, you can bet there’s something rotten in Lansing.

SB 652 moves the Michigan Court of Claims to the Michigan Court of Appeals, restructuring the Court of Claims in a way that lets a political party in power hand-pick the judges who hear cases against the state of Michigan. In other words, Republicans are trying to rig the courts in their favor, as I wrote here last week. Republicans claim the reason for the move is that only three percent of Michiganders get to vote for judges in the Court of Claims. But by moving it to the Court of Appeals, zero percent get to vote for them. Instead, the cases will be handled by GOP-nominated judges.

It’s a move that’s questionable at best and unconstitutional at worst. No one’s quite sure yet, because the bill sped through the legislature so swiftly. That’s why House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel and Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer wrote to Gov. Snyder, urging him to veto SB 652.

We write to you today to strongly encourage you to veto Senate Bill 652, which would move the Michigan Court of Claims to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Making this unprecedented change to our court system is a breach of the separation of powers in state government, a breach of the public trust and partisan politics masquerading as good government.

Senate Bill 652 will make it extremely difficult for Michigan citizens to challenge the constitutionality of controversial laws, which is their right under the Michigan Constitution. It will make it much more difficult for citizens and organizations to file Freedom of Information Act requests, which is also their right. Moving this court to the Court of Appeals will shatter our citizens’ trust in their government and the courts because judges who will hear these cases will be hand‐picked by the Republican‐led Michigan Supreme Court.

Signing Senate Bill 652 into law is a blow against government transparency and accountability. Many of Michigan’s major newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press, the Lansing State Journal and the Battle Creek Enquirer all opined against this move, calling it an extreme overreach of judicial powers and a political agenda rather than good government. Judges and lawyers have also testified and spoken against this move, describing it as ill‐advised in terms of court function and accessibility to citizens.

The speed with which this bill went through the legislative process is a clear indication that its supporters understand just how controversial and questionable this move is. If you sign this bill into law, you will send the message to our citizens that their ability to fully participate in our democracy is unimportant. We can’t think of a worse message to give to the hard‐working citizens of this great state.

As the governor of our state, who is sworn to uphold its laws and who promises on the Open Michigan website that “Michigan is committed to an ‘open door’ approach to government,” you have an obligation to veto SB 652.

Make your own voice heard before it’s too late. Contact Governor Snyder to let him know you oppose this legislation and ask him to veto it.